Art and spies


(Mata Hari url Fries Museum)

Art and spies go well together. The most famous Dutch spy was the dancer Mata Hari. She was executed exactly 100 years ago in France. See for a large exhibition on her life

The story goes that a few years later, in the late twenties and thirties,  Hotel- Café Schiller on Rembrandt Square in Amsterdam became an important meeting place for soviet spies and artists.
schiller hotel DSC07764


In the 1920s and 30s the Rembrandtplein and its surrounding streets were the heart of the theatre world, and a major entertainment centre.

The Rembrandt Theatre and Mille Colonnes were on the Rembrandtplein, Cabaret La Gaité was on the first floor of the Tuschinski Theatre,  the audiences often went for supper or drinks at the Schiller.

The artists (like the actress and singer Fien de la Mar), cabaret artistes, singers, actors, theatre and film directors and other celebrities from Amsterdam and beyond did not only come to the Schiller for the convivial atmosphere, the food and the accompanying drink: they also came to find work.

The Schiller was filled with actors seeking out new plays and roles, musicians searching for engagements, and artists looking for buyers for their work.

There were many regular guests who came almost every evening.

Two artists who were regular visitors of Schiller were Hildo Krop and Henri Pieck (the twin brother of Anton Pieck, whose illustrations inspired the Efteling fairytale park).

Artists were ideally suited to be spies, because of their irregular lifestyles and the fact that they had contacts with people from all walks of life. They were not quickly suspected, because of their unconventional behaviour.

Hildo Krop dochter Einstein 1932 1932

They both became member of communist party. Henri Pieck was highly successful as a spy, as far as is known. And he was handsomely paid for his services.

Hildo Krop maskers 19331933


Less is known about Hildo Krop. It is not clear if he made a significant impact as a spy,
but his studio by the Amstel river became a key location for Russian spies to meet and exchange information. Krop had his regular evening at the Schiller hotel-bar, when he would enjoy a drink or two and meet with others.

He spent almost all of his career as a sculptor in the employment of Amsterdam City Council, and his works can be seen all over the city.

Most of the hotel has remained in its original state, and the atmosphere of the 1920s and 30s is still in the air. This ambience is enhanced by the paintings by hotelier Frits Schiller that, over the years, have come to fill the rooms.


All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.

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